The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy recently outlined a series of steps to further strengthen the Energy Star program. The steps are part of an overall effort by the Obama administration to improve the energy efficiency of homes and appliances to save families money. In addition to third-party testing already underway, the agencies have launched a new two-step process to expand testing of Energy Star-qualified products.

The DOE has begun testing some of the most commonly used appliances, which account for more than 25 percent of a household’s energy bill: water heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers, freezers, refrigerator-freezers and room air conditioners. The agency will test approximately 200 basic models at third-party, independent test laboratories over the next few months.

The EPA and DOE are also developing an expanded system that will require all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs and require manufacturers to participate in an ongoing verification testing program that will ensure continued compliance.

Both agencies have taken a series of actions in recent months to ensure compliance with both Energy Star and the DOE’s appliance efficiency standards (which set baseline energy efficiency levels for appliances), including taking action against 35 manufacturers in the past four months.

In December, the DOE announced it would be aggressively enforcing reporting requirements that manufacturers are required to submit to the department certifying the energy use of residential appliance models and compliance with energy-efficiency standards. It offered manufacturers a 30-day window to submit complete and accurate reports to the department. During that period, the DOE received energy use reports from 160 different manufacturers, covering over 600,000 residential products.

Visit www.energystar.gov for further information.